Also called Graciana, Graciano is a generously pigmented black grape variety that abounds in Rioja, in northern Spain. Graciano serves as a highly aromatic blending agent alongside the more noble Tempranillo, Garnacha and the lesser light, Mazuelo. Sadly, the grape fell from favour due to its stingy yields throughout the 1990's. However, aspirational Spanish winemakers inspired a renaissance of the variety, leading to a rapid increase in plantings from the turn of the century. By 2004, plantings totaled almost 1,000 hectares, with straight varietal expressions being made in Rioja and Navarra, and experimental plantings as far away as Toledo. Graciano, under various monikers, is also found in Argentina, South Australia and California.
Graciano buds very late and is prone to downy mildew. Nevertheless, with careful vineyard management, the variety is capable of rendering wines of great character, if not forceful tannins and sharp acidity. In warmer regions, however, these traits are not necessarily detrimental but conversely, bring freshness and poise to otherwise rich and heavy wine styles.
Graciano is identical to Portugal's Tinta Miúda, the Tintilla de Rota grape of Jerez, and Bovale Sardo of Sardinia. It is also synonymous with Morrastel, a once-prized grape of the Languedoc before it was crossed with Petit Bouschet to give the more hardy, yet greatly inferior, Morrastel-Bouschet. There is still, however, interest in true Morrastel among southern French viticultural archivists. Confusingly, the Spanish also call Monastrell (Mourvédre) Morrastel, while in North Africa the term Morrastel is used for both Graciano and Mourvédre.